The idea of ‘free college’ in the US has a lot of citizens up in arms about the whole ‘free stuff/socialist’ idea. Here’s what ‘free stuff’ looks like at the local, community, individual level.
I work in a local high school after school program that is entirely FREE to the students and their parents, sort of. Funds for the program are derived from taxpayers monies, property taxes, bonds, and state taxes (in this way parents do pay indirectly- through property taxes if they own their own home or through rent that helps pay property taxes). Our community’s youngsters get an amazing experience for the ‘free’ program: they learn floral arranging, robotics, glass bead making, cooking, weight training and fitness, among others. A teacher is available to help, one-on-one, with those that might be struggling with their academic performance. For the entire afternoon, these teenagers are off the street, in a caring and safe environment. Because their parents work, we feed them, we encourage them, we support them, we show them how to adult. For one young man in particular, who for whatever reason does not have a mom in the house, the staff provide much needed mom figures to him. It’s an amazing offering to be able to provide to our community.
While its not really ‘free’, as stated earlier, its benefits are in some cases immeasurable. Consider that we provide a place for teens to go after school and just hang out, with adult support and supervision. Consider the parent who can work with the assurance that all of his or her paycheck can go to food and transportation and clothes, not child care, which means a better overall economy. Consider the numbers of people like me who are employed and earning and then spending the money, also keeping the economy healthy and vibrant. Consider that every student we work with has an advantage over the one’s we don’t. The impact of the program is infinite, even if it’s not ‘free’ in the literal sense of the word.
While he may tout the idea of ‘free college’ and while the Senator’s supporters campaign furiously for his nomination, we all know there is no such thing as free. The money comes from taxes yes, but the entire community and the next generation reap infinite benefits as a result. That’s what “free stuff” looks like.